In this, the sixth installment of the iconic Batman, we examine the artwork of Patrick Gleason from the issue of Batman and Robin #5. To add a little context to this particular frame, Batman has been struggling with his relationship with his son Damian who is also the current Robin. Batman and Robin have been battling with someone called Morgan Ducard who, seemingly at this point, is their equal in all departments. Ducard has managed to lure Robin away from Batman with promises of unfettered grandeur as Robin has been frustrated with Batman’s short leash.
In the above frame we witness Batman ruminating over his failure as a parent. He hasn’t been totally honest with Robin and he hasn’t shared many of the stories and experiences of his own youth. Batman has sought to shield Damian in order to bring him along slowly (if that is possible in the world they travel in.) Now Batman finds himself alone.
We see Batman is full silhouette framed by the full of the moon. Even though it is night the sky runs red. As we have discussed before, red is the color of passion. Only this time the passion is far from the one of love. It is more sorrowful here and seems to conjure thoughts of loss rather than the close knit bond that should connect father and son.
It also portends a certain amount of violence for the future of this father and son team. Violence is not a stranger to this duo, but the blood red of this particular night foreshadows what could be a profound amount of loss that neither may able to get back. The loss of trust is the greatest of them all.
It’s notable that Batman is balanced on an outcrop of architecture high above his city. Gleason seems to want to convey how Batman’s future hangs in the balance and any decision from here on will have dramatic effect on the lives of Batman and his son.
What I also found compelling about this image is how Batman is holding a spare cowl from his uniform. He seems to be looking at himself and asking, or rather, confronting the questions he should have faced long ago. The cowl is an empty vessel however and the answers to Batman’s questions come from within. A place where they have always been.
What is also fascinating about this image of Batman is how much it resembles that of Hamlet holding the skull of the long passed Yorick (Laurence Olivier as Hamlet above.). Hamlet also ruminates over what was lost. Yorick was jester to the King and someone who bore the young Hamlet “on his back a thousand times”. Hamlet wishes for better days and a time when life was simpler and he wasn’t burdened with the pressure of his adult responsibilities. Now Hamlet finds his adult life consumed with thoughts of vengeance over the murder of his father the King and has set his life on a course that is irreversible; a course that is beset with loneliness, retribution and a touch of madness.
Batman also feels the pressure of his lonely struggle to avenge crime. In Robin, his son, you’d think he’d found the perfect person to share his burden with. Yet Batman, like Hamlet, is consumed by the fires of revenge and quite often can’t see beyond the breadth of his own designs.
Hamlet is known to be one of the greatest tragedies written by Shakespeare. In his pursuit of justice Hamlet lent his hand to the death to his many his enemies and sadly to those he loved as well. Let’s hope Batman does not follow the same path as the Prince of Denmark did. Many have suffered and many have been lost in Batman’s quest. But to lose the life and love of the son would be the greatest tragedy of them all.
Posted by Dave Healey